MUSIC: Metallica's ninth studio album is, says frontman James Hetfield, named for "rock-and-roll martyrs." SEPT. 12
PRO: Out of group therapy, the venerable metalheads have teamed with superproducer Rick Rubin for the first time.
CON: There's something sad about grown zillionaires writing songs like "My Apocalypse."
MUSIC: The original American Idol issues her fourth album, as yet untitled. NOVEMBER
PRO: Clarkson has been working with One Republic's Ryan Tedder, and the producers from her debut, "Thankful." This could mean a sunny return to form after the gothic "My December."
CON: Clarkson is maturing—and might her husky voice be put to better use than top 40 fare?
MUSIC: The third album of smooth songs from blue-eyed soul singer Robin Thicke. SEPT. 30
PRO: The album's first single, "Magic," is just that—all dance-floor disco delight.
CON: There are no guest appearances. Can he carry an entire album by himself?
MUSIC: Q-Tip returns with a long-awaited official follow-up to 1999's "Amplified." NOV. 4
PRO: The cerebral former A Tribe Called Quest MC self-produced the CD, instilling it with a loose-limbed jazz and soul vibe.
CON: Hip-hop has moved on since Tribe's heyday. This album, however cool, may strike rap's younger fans as out of touch.
Only by the Night
MUSIC: The fourth album by the Tennessee quartet Kings of Leon. SEPT. 15
PRO: The album's first single, "Sex on Fire," is further indication of these Southern rockers' growing maturity.
CON: Did we mention the first single is titled "Sex on Fire"?
MUSIC: T-Pain's third studio album. NOV. 11
PRO: The record boasts high-octane cameos by Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, Chris Brown and Kanye West.
CON: His signature digital-voice gimmick is beginning to sound played out.
Do You Know
MUSIC: Jessica Simpson goes country. SEPT. 9
PRO: Singing country is easy, and Simpson's voice adapts well to the genre.
CON: But writing country is hard—and she wrote most of the album herself.